Vlingo Gets $20M and Exclusive Yahoo Deal

Speech recognition company Vligno has scored a $20 million second round of funding led by Yahoo, and through a relationship with the search company, access to 600 million cell phone subscribers worldwide. As I noted earlier, Yahoo said today it will use Vlingo to power the voice recognition for its oneSearch mobile search product.

“We like the technology so much we made sure our competitors can’t use it,” explained Marco Boerries, president of Yahoo Mobile. Boerries declined to say how much Yahoo put into Vlingo, but said the company had exclusive use of the technology for mobile search.

Hooking its star to Yahoo puts Vlingo in the same league as Microsoft — which offers mobile carriers speech recognition technology derived from its TellMe acquisition — and singlespeech-focused search company Nuance Communications, which is cultivating carrier relationships as well.

Yahoo Counters Google’s Mobile Onslaught With Voice

yhoo.jpg Yahoo, with the second generation of its oneSearch product, has thrown down the gauntlet in the mobile search wars. Whereas Google employed a clean and easy-to-use interface to win over the desktop space, Yahoo is trying to make gains in the mobile space by taking a different approach: voice.

The more time I spend with my mobile, the more I realize what a godawful pain it is — even with a QWERTY keyboard — to type. Anything that would make the process less time-consuming (and free up my hands) is welcome, and is precisely the reason I use voice services such as Jott and Goog-411.
So using voice (powered by Vlingo) for oneSearch is a compelling proposition.

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SpinVox Nets $100M and a $500M Valuation

London startup SpinVox raised $100 million today in a round of financing that values the company at $500 million. That’s big money for a company that translates voicemails into text, but SpinVox appears to have achieved some valuable intellectual property associated with its speech-to-text software. Currently it can transcribe in French, Spanish, English and German; the funding will help it add Italian, Portuguese and Arabic to its repertoire.

The funding will also go toward expanding the infrastructure required to serve carriers who offer the service. About a dozen carriers currently offer voicemail-to-text through SpinVox, and company spokesman Jonathan Simnett says it will add a dozen more this year, including more in the U.S. The carriers currently offering the service have about 100 million subscribers between them. SpinVox has 6 million.

The whopping valuation makes a bit more sense if you consider that players ranging from Microsoft (it bought TellMe) to Nuance Communications (it’s bought a lot) are all trying to crack the speech-to-text market as a way to improve navigation and search on mobile phones. IBM and Google are also making plays in this area while startups including Jott, Yap and Vlingo have offerings as well.

Vlingo Working With Sprint, AT&T

Vlingo, a Cambridge, MA-based start-up that has developed voice-based interface for mobile phones is working with AT&T and Sprint, according to The New York Times. Both wireless carriers are testing an app called, The Find, which allows you to speak and search for local business information, songs or some web information.

I wrote about the company back in August 2007 and was quite impressed. What I like about the company (and others like it) is that we need to figure out a way to make the complicated-phones of today easier to use.

That said, Vlingo has some challenges: the market is very crowded and more players keep entering the business including some with deep pockets. For example, Nuance, the voice recognition giant, that in recent weeks has been talking up its mobile strategy.